A top Japanese stem cell scientist has died in an apparent suicide. Dr. Yoshiki Sasai was both a top scientist in the stem cell community, and one of the more controversial figures. He took harsh criticism after a study, published in Nature, was discredited.
Dr. Sasai was the supervisor of Haruko Obokata, the lead author in the stem cell studies. The claim in the studies was that blood cells could be transformed into embryonic stem cells if exposed to a weak solution of acid. Obokata was accused of scientific misconduct, but Yoshiki Sasai was cleared of any direct involvement.
Being cleared of any direct involvement did not stop the wave of harsh criticism directed at him for failing to provide the appropriate oversight. The scientific community accused Sasai of failing to institute guidelines during the writing of the now debunked studies.
Dr. Yoshiki Sasai is best known for his work in 2011. His study with stem cells set the community ablaze when he mimicked the early development of a human eye using mice stem cells.
Riken, the research company that employed Sasai, and investigated the debunked papers, released a statement on the passing of Dr. Sasai. President Noyori Ryjoii expressed his shock and sympathy on the death of Dr. Sasai.
“I just heard the shocking news that Dr. Yoshiki Sasai, Deputy Director of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, passed away. I am overcome with grief at this terrible news. The scientific world has lost a talented and dedicated researcher, who earned our deep respect for the advanced research he carried out over many years. I would like to express my deepest condolences to Dr. Sasai’s family and colleagues.”